I grew up going to Knoebels Amusement park, and then I moved to Central PA with Hershey very close by. We went to Hershey a few years, paid for by my husband’s work, but were turned off by the high price to go otherwise.
Until this past summer.
Partly as a gift from grandparents, we got season tickets for the whole family to go to Hershey. So now we can really compare the two. Our conclusion at the end of the summer surprised me.
Point by point, I’ll compare our experience at these two Pennsylvania amusement parks. My kids, all elementary aged, had a very clear preference.
In fact, we couldn’t even bribe them go with us to Hershey by the end of summer. They said NO to an amusement park! They said they’d rather stay home.
Hershey: Every person has to pay admission to enter–whether they ride a lot or ride zero rides. (That was always a big negative to me. We usually have a non-rider in our family.)
Knoebels: No admission fee. You buy tickets or a hand stamp for anyone who wants to ride. Non-riding parents or grandparents who just want to enjoy watching don’t pay.
Hershey’s day price: Approximately $54, with some deals to be had for cheaper admission.
Knoebel’s day price: When our kids were small, we’d buy the tickets and spend between $20 and $40 a day. (Yes, that’s right: my entire family went for less than one person getting into Hershey for a single day.) Now our boys are older, and paying for big rides with tickets is not the best value, so we opt for hand stamps for all day riding. The cost is almost $49 for an all-day pass for one person, including wooden coasters; $44 a day for all rides minus wooden coasters. Difference: Knoebel’s offers a cheaper price for kids under 48 inches: $32 (including wooden coasters) and $26
Single-Day cost Winner: Knoebels. Our family can go to Knoebels for about $130, now that our boys are older and want hand stamps for coasters. (We’d not buy hand stamps for the adults; if we want a ride or two, we’d buy individual tickets per ride.) Hershey Park would cost, minimum, over $250.
Full disclosure: we had Hershey season passes–which is a good value because you can go unlimited times through Sept 30 for less than the cost of buying tickets for 3 days.
Season Pass Value winner: Hershey. I wish Knoebels had a season pass!
2. FOOD Comparison
Knoebels: Food choices include sit-down restaurants and counter-service places. Everything from pizza (by slice or pie) and (my favorite) perogies and tri-tators, and the newer international foods pavilion with the Mexican food. Cost ranged from a few dollars to $6-8.
Hershey: Counter service and cafeteria style eateries: pizza, burgers, hot dogs, etc., and a few chain restaurants: Moe’s, Chic-Fil-A, Nate’s Hot Dog stand. The typical meal was over $7-$12 cash, on the higher end if you wanted a side or drink.
My two favorite Hershey meals: Moe’s and ——-
Other difference: Knoebels allows outside food to be brought in, so we always packed lunch and ate dinner there, making Knoebel’s food cheaper in yet another way.
Food Variety: Knoebels’ wins for variety. Hershey has fewer options, though most are duplicated in multiple places within the park, wheres Knoebels has one location for each.
Quality of eating experience: Knoebels wins this easily. At Knoebel’s, you may wait in line sometimes for a few minutes. You may have to wait some minutes at a table while you food is being prepared. But at Hershey, even if you choose to eat at an off-time, say mid-afternoon on a Tuesday, you can stand in line for well over 20-30 minutes at least (We never even went on the busy weekends, so I don’t know how much worse it could get).
I was used to thinking that different members of the family could eat food from different places because, at Knoebels, you really could grab pizza for one kid, then swing by the Mexican place and get everyone else tacos. But after a few times of trying to get food from more than one place at Hershey led me to realize that it took an hour and a half. Do that twice in a visit and you feel like you spend half your day in line, waiting to eat. Even when I required we all get food at the same place, the typical 30 minute wait at most places was undesirable. THIS is a big reason my kids stopped wanting to go.
3. RIDES Comparison
Variety of rides: My kids preferred the many roller coasters at Hershey to the few big coaster offerings at Knoebels. Over-all, Knoebles has a lot of variety, but simply fewer big coasters.
Closed rides: Hershey was very poor in this respect. I get that they cut down on staff by closing a percentage of rides on weekdays when park volume is lower; but it means that the rides open are crowded. As we went to Hershey’s water park almost once a week, my kids found that certain attractions were simply never open on weekdays. It seemed that they perhaps opened them only one weekends when attendance was at peak. We could never go on weekends, so it’s kinda crazy, after a whole season, and paying for season passes, there were many rides we wanted to try that we never had opportunity to try!
4. ENTERTAINMENT Comparison
Quality: Hershey’s Music Box Theater performances wowed my kids. We often saw shows more than once. (There was a show for summer and one for Christmas.) Knoebels’ shows are simply not produced on that Disney-like scale.
Variety and frequency: Knoebles wins, hands-down. It has a LOT of entertainment. Multiple stages, indoor and outdoor, featuring oldies bands, magicians, comedians, puppeteers–all sorta of things! There are shows scheduled all day. At Knoebels, it’s rather geared toward the older crowd, and there are plenty of places to sit and rest. Also, there is a children’s theater where kids get to put on costumes and act parts as a play is narrated. (My kids have done that multiple years; it’s one of their favorite things.)
5. ATMOSPHERE COMPARISON
Knoebels: completely family friendly. And the kids love the playground! There are many trees, much less blacktop!
In sum, Knoebles remains my family’s favorite, despite fewer coasters. It wins in every other respect. My kids kept asking last summer when we would go–I said, no, we had Hershey season passes. They can’t wait to go to Knoebels this summer!
I think Hershey is only tolerable IF you have season passes. The amount of time waiting for food or popular rides means you can accomplish so little in a single day. Having a one-day pass would be frustrating–especially for those of us who’ve been to other parks with more favorable experiences. In fact, all this waiting is why my kids all eventually preferred not to go–before our season passes ran out. They were sick of waiting in line–for everything.
Do you have a different preference? Share!